Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bike Night Meet & Greet

bike nightLast Wednesday evening I organized a "bike night" through my motorcycle meetup group. The meetup group is an Internet-based calendar where I post rides to the public and invite them to ride with our riding club and get to know the kind of riding we like to do. The ultimate goal is to find that one rider out of twenty who fits in with the characteristics of our club.

The "bike night" is more like a meet & greet, to encourage people to join us at a local bar, hang out, get to know us, and feel good about riding along with us on an upcoming ride.

I do these about once a month, and there's always an interesting mix of newcomers that show up.

So last night, Stacey shows up on his Yamaha Raider. He does most of his riding commuting to San Diego Navy Base, about a 150 mile commute roundtrip. I'm not sure he really has much time for joy riding.

Daniel, a retiree from Seattle, showed up with his Sportster. He just moved here, seemed very friendly. He's been staying with his daughter who had already lived here. He said his daughter finally got tired of him staying indoors all day long, and told him to go out and find friends. That's how he found us.

Tony says he finally "ditched the bitch" and bought himself a brand new Softail Custom. He says he wished he had waited and studied all of Harley's bikes first, because now he realized he should have gotten the Street Glide. He seemed bummed out about it now. He left our bike night early and headed over to another bar where they have cuter bartenders.

Diane seemed quite shy, she rode in on some kind of Kawasaki, small displacement cruiser. She says she's tired of riding by herself. She didn't say a whole lot.

Lou is fairly new to our group, though he's already ridden with us a couple of times. Lately, he's been bringing his ukelele on rides. When we stop some place to eat, he pulls it out and sings songs for us. He serenaded us at the bike night too.

Michelle has ridden with us once so far. She has a job detailing bikes around town. She's mostly here to promote her business, and wanted me to promote it on my meetup group website. She gave me a link from her business website, so I returned the favor. She's been very professional and discreet about it.

Mike's been riding with us quite a bit though he's not a part of our club. He seems to enjoy hanging around. He has a great attitude, appreciates our kind of riding, fits in really well with our group. He spent some time talking about prostatitis, and how awful it is, the symptoms, the recovery. I'm not sure where he was going with that.

Jack and his wife Melanie have ridden with us several times as well and seem to enjoy riding with us through the meetup group, though they have no desire to join our riding club. He's a very skilled rider, and very independent minded. They ride on a Goldwing, and she has her own saddlebag on one side, and he has the other. Kinda like his and hers bathroom sinks.

The rest of the folks there were members of our riding club, though not all of our members showed up. Even if none of the meetup group people had shown up, this is still a way for our club members to forge friendships.

Here's some photos...

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Proper Motorcycle Seating Posture

I continue to struggle with poor seating posture on my Electra Glide.

I tend to slouch in my seat, and during longer rides that makes my upper back sore.

I also notice my butt aching, primarily my tail bone. I mentioned this before, a little more than a year ago. Back then I had lost 35 pounds. Since then I've lost another 20 pounds. I'm constantly shifting around on that seat.

It's mostly just bad posture. As I ride around now, I try to remind myself to sit up straight. It seems to take the pressure off the tail bone, and makes my back feel better.

The problem is that the way the Electra Glide is designed, and I imagine the stock seat as well. It just invites me to slouch. My Yamaha Road Star is different. The way everything is laid out, the handlebars, the floorboards, the seating, it tends to keep me more straight up.

So, I'm about to head out for another day of riding now. Hope everyone has a good weekend.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

9-11, Where Were You?

When the terrorist attacks took place on Sept 11, 2001, I was in a business meeting in Austin, TX, having flown there with seven other fellow employees the day before, to meet with a potential customer.

We rented a Dodge Caravan to shuttle us to and from the hotel.

Somewhere during a break in the meeting, someone walked into the conference room and told us all that a jet liner had crashed into the World Trade Center. We were stunned. "Holy Shit" I kept thinking.

Later on in the afternoon, during another break, someone walked into the conference room, and said a second jet liner crashed into the other World Trade Center tower. At that point, we didn't know what to think. The first crash we thought was a tragedy. The second crash, now that can't be a coincidence.

About an hour or so later, someone else broke into our meeting, and announced that jet liners were crashing all over the country, and officials put the entire country on alert. We were so stunned, we couldn't focus on the meeting anymore, and just mulled about trying to learn as much as we could.

We were in a high rise building in Austin, with a full view of the city from, I don't know, 30 floors up or more. All we could think about was a plane crashing into the building we were in.

So we all left the building.

Those of us from our company decided to walk to this bar a block away and watch the news.

Our plane was supposed to fly us back home only hours away, but of course all the flights are grounded now. And, we had to return that minivan.

So we decided to hold on to the minivan figuring once we turn it in, we'd never be able to rent another one with all the flights grounded.

Several of us voted to drive that thing back to Southern California. Others voted to stay in Austin and wait for the airports to open up. But we had families worried about us, and we wanted to get back to them. I mean, we thought these plane crashes was a precursor of more to come.

Other locals overheard us debating, and warned that the Interstate between Austin and El Paso is a such a lonely stretch, with very few towns in between, that gangs would be taking control of the roads and pillaging everything that came their way. We'd be sure to lose our lives. This had the women scared.

Other locals said that gas stations were spiking the price of gas up to $5.00 a gallon (it was around a dollar-something back then).

"Look, we don't know how long flights are going to be grounded, could be for weeks, or months. And we've already checked out of our rooms. I honestly doubt with the flights being grounded, that the freeways are going to be taken over by gangs. There's going to be so many more people using the freeways now, that no way can gangs stand up to us", I tried to reason with them.

All the guys agreed.

We voted, and the guys won.

So we left Austin around 7 or 8ish. That little minivan was crammed.

We went all the way through Texas and encountered nothing. We expected the freeways to be packed solid. Instead, they were somewhat light. I guess everyone was too stunned to go out. We heard on the radio stories of gasoline being spiked in other states, but so far we encountered no spiked prices.

At every gas fill up, or potty break, we switched out drivers.

By the time we hit New Mexico, it was morning the next day, the sun was up, and the heat was starting to build. We turned on the air conditioner and discovered it didn't work. So we rolled the windows down.

We got into Arizona, and stopped in Benson at a cafe to eat breakfast. We told the waitress our story, and she mentioned other business travelers doing the same thing, traveling along the same Interstate, trying to get home.

Further into Arizona, with the windows all rolled down, the heat was getting intense. One gal got sick from it. We had pull over several times to let her barf.

By mid-afternoon, we made it into California. The California desert was the hottest temperature yet, reaching over 100 degrees, no air conditioner, and eight of us crammed into a minivan. We had bought a cooler earlier, filled it with ice and drinks to help cool off.

The whole thing was like an iron butt ride. We were talking about all kinds of stuff, and learning things about each other that we would had never known if not for the circumstances. I don't know why, but "Gilligan's Island" kept coming into my mind.

Every once in awhile I'll reconnect with an old co-worker from those days, usually via Facebook, and we'll say "remember that time when we drove all the way back from Austin?"

So today, we're all remembering again.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hidden Springs Cafe Burns Down

Hidden Springs Cafe, a stop along Angeles Forest Highway, which connects the cities of Los Angeles and Palmdale, is gone, according to the Los Angeles Times...
Hidden Springs Cafe, a haven to bikers, a coffee stop for commuters and a home to owner Jim Lewis and his family, has been consumed by the wildfire raging through the Angeles National Forest, authorities confirmed Tuesday.

I always liked stopping there while riding through the Angeles National Forest. I'm not sure it was the "haven to bikers" that the Times called it, though certainly a lot of motorcycles stopped there. Otherwise, Newcomb's Ranch, another 20 miles up the Angeles Crest is where the biker haven is. But if you wanted to get away from the squids, the wannabes, and the goons, Hidden Springs Cafe offered such a respite.

The cafe had a lot of charm that you wouldn't find elsewhere. Hanging from its roof were hummingbird feeders, and the hummingbirds were always there in numbers. In fact, I used to call the place "Hummingbird Cafe". The place was adorned with antiques.

There was also a skinny cat that greeted visitors, perhaps living off of what scraps people would throw at it.

I think the reason why more bikers didn't stop there was because it didn't have enough room. While it did have a big parking lot, it hardly had the seating to host a bunch of thirsty bikers. But it had a lot of peace and quiet. You could sit on the front porch, reflect on life, and watch the motorcycles go by. For that, it was a great place to rest.

But I guess it's all gone now, reduced to cinders by the "Station Fire".

Here are a few photos I had in my collection...

hidden springs cafe

hidden springs cafe

hidden springs cafe

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Run to the Coast, Sep 5, 2009

Here's a slide show from a ride we did last weekend to the coast...

Stops along the way:

  • Pizza Port, San Clemente, CA
  • Backstreet Brewing, Ladera Ranch, CA
  • Hells Kitchen, El Cariso, CA
  • Trevi Lanes, Lake Elsinore, CA

After that cooker of a ride to Kernville the week before, we needed a ride along the coast where it was cooler.

Afterwards, some of us headed off to the bowling alley.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Taking Photos of Twisties

The hardest thing about photographing the road on twisties, is holding the camera with one hand, and the holding the handlebar with the other.

20mph curves
On our overnight rides, I like to photograph roads as I ride them, mostly because those roads are so far enough away from home that I don't get a chance to ride them that often.

Looking through all those old photos, it makes me want to go back there and ride them again.

Some time ago, I finally got smart and decided to attach a chain to the camera, and hang it around my neck. That way if I need to grab the handlebars, I can drop the camera. Before that, I used to reach into my pocket, pull the camera out, take the photo, and put it back into my pocket.

One time I did that, I found myself needing holding the handlebars with both hands really quickly, and ended up stuffing the corner of my camera into my mouth.

Everyone seems to want to see photos of the ride, so it makes me feel good knowing that I have the camera, because I love taking photos. But I have to wonder if there's an opposite side to that, where people get annoyed by it. You can only take so many photos until it becomes too much.

Like so many people today, I have a Facebook account. And I got into the habit of taking a photo, and uploading it to Facebook. But I wasn't going overboard with it. I'd have a friend snap a photo of me using my cell phone, and then upload it to Facebook, just as a way to keep a photo journal of my rides.

A girlfriend of one of my riding buddies noticed that some of these photos showed her boyfriend in the background, or maybe we'd be seated at the bar having a good time. So, she requested to become a Facebook friend of mine.

Then one day, I uploaded a photo of him and me chugging down some monster-sized margaritas at a mexican restaurant, in the outdoor patio, with bowls of chips and salsa in front. It was such an idyllic moment, I had to add it to my photo journal.

He later told me he got busted. His girlfriend didn't know he had been out riding with his buddies, drinking down margaritas, and I guess she got jealous, peeved, or something. So, I'm much more careful about what photos I take, and what I upload.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Biker Dogs MC

Biker Dogs MCAn actual three-piece patch motorcycle club for bikers who take their dogs with them on rides...

They call themselves "4%ers", 1% for each paw.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Riding With A Chase Vehicle

In last weekend's ride up to Kernville, we had a chase vehicle follow us.

Every once in awhile, when we do these overnight rides, we'll have a chase vehicle there. It's not normally planned that way, but just seems to happen depending on who wants to come along, and what the circumstances are.

In this case, one guy took his daughter with him on the bike, and the wife wanted to go too. So, she took the jeep.

chase vehicle
Depending on how you look at it, chase vehicles can be an advantage or disadvantage. It's good in that it can haul other people's stuff, and frees up space on the bikes. The bike is no longer top-heavy, and let's us carve up the canyons with more ease. In this particular case, the wife packed a cooler full of beer on ice. And when we stopped somewhere up on a mountain range, we pulled over for a butt break, and sucked down some cold ones. It added a nice touch to the whole ride, one that we would not have been able to enjoy otherwise.

But there can be some downsides to it. You can't lane split for one thing, otherwise you lose the chase vehicle, though that advantage only applies in California. Or, if only one person is in the chase vehicle, we can't use the carpool lane.

Interestingly, this woman had a CB radio in the jeep. My Ultra Classic has a CB radio, and we had a guy on Gold Wing with a CB as well, and the three of us could converse throughout the trip.

On one hand, there's something special about having only you, the bike, and whatever you can fit on it. It limits you to the bare essentials, narrows your focus down to just you and the road, and challenges your ability to master the bungee cord.

But it's still so nice to have a car there to carry all the weight for you, and then some, including the laptop, the tool box, the cooler full of beer, the Jack & Cokes, the illegal fireworks, the college girls, the sex toys...

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Angeles National Forest Fire

I snapped this photo over my shoulder while riding down the Pearblossom Highway just outside of Palmdale, CA, last Sunday...

motorcycles angeles national forest fire
We were actually on our way home from an weekend overnighter to Kernville.

We stopped on the side of the road, under the full smoke screen, for a butt break, and actually found the temperature cool. Palmdale is normally triple-digit temperatures at this time, but the smoke blotted out the sun and seemingly made the air 10-15 degrees cooler.

There was also a nice breeze, which I think was caused by the fire sucking the oxygen out of the air. The fire was still several miles away from us.

As we continued on, and escaped the smoke screen, the temperature rose back up to triple digits again.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Biker Snobs

nine mile canyon road, californiaI found the following quote from a local motorcycle rider, posted on a motorcycle forum...
"I love the fact that you said in this group you don't have to prove anything to anyone, just relax, enjoy yourself and have a good time. Too many groups i have tried to ride with are so INTO THE HARLEY THING and the riding FAST THING, that is you arn't IN THE SWING thier rythm, then they kind of look down thier nose to you. And i have always driven something other than a Harley, all my life and ridden all kinds of motorcyles, dirt, race, and cruisers since i was 10 years old, love them all!"
The underline is mine.

I certainly have met folks that seem to look down their nose at you, but not many. It's mostly a case of something getting lost in the translation.

I tell people that we all have an internal speed, and that the speed at which we like to ride matches that internal speed. I've tried to ride slower, but it actually feels uncomfortable. And I've tried to ride faster, and that too feels uncomfortable.

I've never looked down on anyone for whatever speed they like to ride, but yet I find it frustrating to hear that someone thinks I'm a snob, just because I refuse to slow down for them.

And then to suggest that people who ride fast, or ride a Harley, are trying to prove something.

There's no reason why I should ride faster for someone, or slower for someone. And I don't expect anyone to do so for me.

And isn't it ironic that bikers always use words like "freedom" and "independence" when describing their love for riding, but yet seemingly get angry when other riders won't slow down to their speed?

Who is exactly the snob here? The rider who does whatever he feels like doing, or the rider who wants other riders to slow down for them?

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About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)